Virtual reality and robotics are two technologies that are used in the field of rehabilitation medicine to support and supplement traditional rehabilitation procedures.

What is a robot?

A robot is a device that automatically performs complicated, frequently repeated activities and various complex acts of a human being. There are two kinds of robots used in the field of rehabilitation, Therapeutic robots, and Functional robots.  Therapeutic robots, such as big stationary exercise robots or wearable exoskeletal robots, are currently used in robotic systems. Functional robots include companion robots and aid robots for activities of daily living (ADL).

What is virtual reality?

A human-computer interface known as virtual reality (VR) enables users to interact with a computer-generated environment through a variety of sensory inputs. Users may receive feedback via the virtual environment (VE) in the form of sound, vision, or touch. Digital elements are added to a live view using a device, most often a cell phone, tablet, or wearing spectacles, in augmented reality (AR).

VR in rehabilitation

Examples include projector-based representations of limbs for amputees. AR adds a digital layer to reality as opposed to VR, which creates a completely different experience. From totally virtual environments to unaltered reality, there are various sorts of augmented reality. For the purpose of incorporating user movement and position, numerous motion tracking sensors or cameras have been developed.

Role of robotics and VR in rehabilitation

Evaluation of motor skills

Robotics and virtual reality (VR) systems can assess capabilities and act as therapeutic instruments in the field of rehabilitation medicine. With the help of these devices, one may evaluate and quantify one’s motor skills, posture and limb position, strength, gait, and balance. Patients and clinicians can receive performance feedback in real time. In order to compare patient development to that of other users or themselves, reports can also be prepared.

Offers enjoyable therapeutic tasks

In a stimulating and enjoyable way, they offer users repetitive, contextualised, task-specific training for therapeutic purposes. These activities are essential for neurorehabilitation because they support neuroplasticity and healing. Additionally, using game-like interfaces to convey normally boring or repetitive tasks in an appealing way can help patients adhere to rehabilitation regimens.

Robotics and VR in treating paralysis

Robotic devices can also aid or promote the movement of paralysed limbs as they conduct functional movements and behaviours, allowing patients to become more independent and socially engaged. VR systems can offer cognitive tests, exercises, and simulations of real-world tasks in a secure environment (e.g., driving simulation or street crossing). Robotics and virtual reality systems can work together to give accurate, repetitive training in entertaining and secure virtual worlds.

Patient with an exoskeleton

Targeted Disorders

Patients with movement and sensory problems of the CNS, including cerebral palsy, stroke,  multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, and traumatic brain injury, have been the main subjects of research on robotic and VR systems.

Offers physical support and prosthesis training

Robotic devices are ideally suited to offer useful support with daily activities and mobility. Robotic exoskeletons, for instance, can enable paraplegic people to walk on their own. For patients with neuromuscular illnesses like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, brain-computer interfaces are being researched. These devices analyse brain signals and use them to drive robotic devices. Robotic companions can be beneficial in social, psychological, and physical ways.

In order to provide an interesting, structured environment for performing strengthening, stretching, cardiovascular exercise, and for prosthesis training, VR systems are also being employed in the fields of orthopaedics and sports medicine. Additionally, cognitive impairments brought on by CNS issues have been treated with VR technology.

Advantages of robotics and VR in rehabilitation

At any stage of the rehabilitation process, from the acute to the chronic phases, robotics and VR can be used. At each stage of recovery and rehabilitation, these technologies may be employed in addition to conventional therapy to achieve the pertinent goals.

Patient wearing robotic exoskeleton legs


The inability of some systems to be used easily by patients with cognitive, visual, or perceptual  impairments is a general drawback. 

Safety concerns should also be taken into account as the patients may be more vulnerable to malfunctions if they are left unattended. In this case, padding is used to lessen the pressure and risk of skin damage

In patients with impaired bone quality, there is an increased risk of fracture while utilizing adjustable robotic exoskeleton and gait training equipment.

Transient visually induced motion sickness, also referred to as cyber sickness is the most frequent negative impact of VR. Symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, sweating and nausea can occur.

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